Latvian women are now the world’s tallest, according to a new study published on Tuesday in the journal eLife. A group of roughly 800 scientists, in association with the World Health Organization, tracked growth trends across 187 countries over the past hundred years. The height charts, it was found, are completely dominated by European countries, although increases in height in the West were found to be leveling out on average. Americans, on the other hand, appear to have lost some of their standing, at least relatively — in 1914, America had the third tallest men and fourth tallest women on the planet. Today, American men and women rank 37th and 42nd tallest in the world respectively.
The greatest increases in height were largely seen in East Asia, where people in Japan, China, and South Korea grew much taller on average compared to 100 years ago. South Korean women made the biggest gains of all, with an increase of over 8 inches (20cm). The smallest gains were seen in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa — in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, such as Uganda and Sierra Leone, average heights had in fact dropped since the 1970s. The smallest women in the world were found in Guatemala, who on average measure just under 4 feet 11 inches.
Discussing the findings of the height study, lead scientist Majid Ezzati said that “about a third of the explanation could be genes” but that “changes over time and variations across the world are largely environment.” He suggested that higher standards of healthcare, sanitation, and nutrition, as well as improved health and nutrition for mothers, were likely the key drivers of height growth.
Read the full story at BBC News.